Thomas Wilson


Dr Thomas Wilson (not to be confused with Sir Thomas Wilson (1560?-1629), Keeper of the State Papers) occupies a place among the distinguished literary men of his time as a notable humanist statesman and scholar. His achievements are summarised by Albert J. Schmidt in ‘Thomas Wilson, Tudor Scholar-Statesman’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 20 (1956-7), 205-18, and in ‘Thomas Wilson and the Tudor Commonwealth: An Essay in Civil Humanism’, HLQ, 23 (1959-60), 49-60.

Authorial Literary Manuscripts

Apart from a mnemonic couplet (WiT 0.5), there is no manuscript of Wilson's most famous work, The Arte of Rhetorique (1553). Nor, apart from one extract from a printed source (see Nicholas Udall, UdN 4), are there any known manuscripts of his Rule of Reason (1551), or Discourse upon Usury (1572), or any other work of his published during his lifetime. An address to the Queen on New Year's Day, 1566/7, however, is preserved in his autograph presentation copy (*WiT 2), and an autograph political tract of 1578 also survives (*WiT 1), as well as summaries of one or two other political speeches (WiT 3-8).

Letters and Documents

There are also (not given separate entries below) substantial and largely unedited collections of Wilson's official correspondence in the National Archives, Kew, and the British Library (Additional, Cotton, Harley and Lansdowne MSS), as well as some among the Talbot papers in Lambeth Palace Library. Scribal copies of certain letters are in Cambridge University Library (MS Ee. 2. 34, ff. 87, 101, 105v) and in the Bradford Archives (32D86/19, f. 19r). Facsimile examples of three autograph letters in the British Library (Lansdowne MS 12, f. 6r; Harley MSS 6991, f. 52r, and 6992, f. 116r) are reproduced in Greg, English Literary Autographs, Plate LXIV. A letter in Latin to Sir William Cecil (Lansdowne MS 12, f. 32r) in which he mentions his translation of orations by Demosthenes (published London, 1570) is edited in Original Letters of Eminent Literary Men, ed. Sir Henry Ellis, Camden Society 23 (London, 1843), pp. 28-32.

Peter Beal